20 Nov 2018

Victim Support reviewing response to Ōtaki deaths

4:53 pm on 20 November 2018

Victim Support is looking into whether it responded properly to a spate of deaths in Ōtaki.

Stock photo.

Stock photo. Photo: 123rf.com

The families of two of the four people who died have said the group was in touch with them just once, then they waited weeks for any follow-up.

"We are looking further into this matter to determine whether proper processes, including timeliness, have been followed, and whether sufficient support is in place for the families," Victim Support's chief executive Kevin Tso said in a statement.

RNZ had asked Victim Support for the dates and times of its response to all four deaths. It has not provided that information.

The agency had robust quality practices in place "to ensure prompt contact is made", Mr Tso said.

Several people in the Horowhenua-Kāpiti area were still being supported, and others had declined support.

"We would also like to acknowledge the pain of all those affected by these recent deaths," he said, adding the agency would be happy to meet with Ōtaki College principal Andy Fraser.

Mr Fraser and local people spoken to by RNZ have strongly questioned the adequacy of the response from authorities, especially the Midcentral District Health Board.

However, the DHB said it was not the lead agency.

"The organisation responsible for directly responding to cases of suspected suicide are the ... police.

"Police, through Victim Support, provide immediate support to bereaved family and act as a liaison between other agencies."

The DHB said Victim Support decided whether to call in a grief counsellor, social worker, psychologist, iwi liaison officer, or a team of doctors who might then refer a person to mental health services.

Local people questioned what mental health services were available in the town itself.

The DHB has responded by saying it has:

  • A DHB mental health service, and alcohol and other drug services operating out of the Ōtaki Women's Health Collective.
  • This includes adult psychiatric services, Māori-specific mental health services, child and family services and services for people over 65
  • Five full-time mental health staff, primarily for the Ōtaki region, which run one or two doctor-led clinics each month
  • Two staff run child, adolescent and family health services, including a child psychiatrist, a paediatrician, a support service for Ōtaki College students, and crisis intervention services during the day
  • A suicide prevention training session would be run in Ōtaki in December

The DHB said its multi-disciplinary team in Levin had expanded from two staff to six in recent years, and covered Ōtaki.

It was recruiting to fill a vacancy for a clinician in its Oranga Hinengaro-Māori Mental Wellbeing service.

Vacancies had also limited the alcohol and drug services that were meant to be available in Ōtaki four days a week, the DHB said. It had just over 100 clients in the area.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155